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Rabbi’s Update 5/31/2024


Dear Friends:


Last night I taught a class called “Mahloket L’shem Shamayim: Jewish Wisdom for Productive and Respectful Disagreement.” As is often the case, I prepared more material than I could cover in one session, even though it ran a bit long, so we will have a second class on the topic next week.


 The video of the class can be seen here. The key takeaway from the class is that even passionate disagreement is not only accepted but encouraged within the Jewish tradition, but it must be respectful. Such a disagreement is known as Mahloket L’Shem Shamayim, a dispute or disagreement for the sake of heaven. These are the four pillars of a  Mahloket L’Shem Shamayim:


1. Listen to the other side and be open to admitting that you might be wrong.

2. Check your motivation: a) are you trying to win or to understand? b) are you trying to win or to solve problems? 

3. Debate the issues without attacking people and harming relationships. 

4. Consider that you might both be right, despite holding opposite positions.


I am increasingly of the belief that no one should be in a position of power whether in a synagogue, another Jewish organization, or even our country’s political life without a sworn commitment to upholding the four principles listed above.


As you know, yesterday early evening a jury in New York City returned a “guilty” verdict for all 34 criminal counts against former president Donald Trump. As I was watching television during the period it was known that the jury had reached a verdict but before the verdict was announced, one of the panel participants said that whatever verdict was returned, people would be dancing in the streets. While this is the first time that a former U.S. president has both been indicted for criminal behavior and convicted, the principle that no one is above the law is well established in both American and Jewish tradition.


The governmental system in Israel differs from that of the United States and one of those difference is that Israel has both a president (whose role is largely ceremonial and symbolic) and a prime minister. In recent times both a former president (Moshe Katzav) and a former prime minister (Ehud Olmert) have been convicted and jailed. President Katzav was convicted for having committed sexual assault and harassment against several women while he was the Minister of Tourism, and Olmert was convicted for having taken bribes to permit real estate developments while he was mayor of Jerusalem. Katzav was jailed for five years of a seven year term and Olmert served 17 months of a two year term. As a side note, Olmert served as the teaching assistant for a course I took in Israeli politics at the Hebrew University while he was a graduate student there.


As a reminder, I am having drop-in hours on Thursday afternoons from 2 to 4 at the shul. For my drop-in hours, you do not need to make an appointment -- that would negate the whole point of drop-in hours -- but I’d urge you to check and make sure I am there regardless as sometimes there are unavoidable pastoral or other emergencies which might take me away from the building.


As always, if I can do anything for you or you need to talk, please contact me at rabbi@kehilatshalom.org or 301-977-0768 rather than through the synagogue office. I am happy to meet you at the synagogue by appointment; if you want to speak with me it’s best to make an appointment rather than assuming I will be there when you stop by. 

Additionally, if you know of a Kehilat Shalom congregant or another member of our Jewish community who could use a phone call, please let me know.


L’shalom,




Rabbi Charles L. Arian



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